Tag Archives: certification

Dinner Speech at PMAF Congress, Helsinki, part 1

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

In November, we traveled to Helsinki, Finland, to represent IPMA, International Project Management Association, to “wave our flag,” at the PMAF (Project Management Association Finland) national congress. Leveraging our presence, hosts Heikki Lonka, President, Jouko Vaskimo, Certification Chair, and Jyry Louhisto, General Manager, signed us up for meetings with their organizational and certification leadership teams, added two presentations, two panel sessions, and the most challenging one, a dinner meeting presentation that was to address six areas of interest to PMAF members.

Most dinner meeting participants are usually more interested in visiting with friends they have not seen for months or longer, rather than listening to some dignitary from afar, droning on about topics of little interest. But Jyry was adamant that it was important to “wave the IPMA flag,” so we accommodated him. PMAF expected around 250 people for this dinner meeting, and there was to be no projector, and no Powerpoint slides. Naked-mic speaking, as it were!

The Topics
The topics to address were:

  1. IPMA’s basic principles
  2. The role of IPMA in support of member associations such as PMAF
  3. Highlights of IPMA’s services and products
  4. The importance of international networks to PMAF and its members
  5. PMAF’s role in the IPMA Family network
  6. What IPMA would like to be in the future

An interesting list of topics, and when asked how much time to take, Jyry said 15 minutes. A lot of ground to cover in a short time! To prepare, we used asapm co-founder Lew Ireland’s technique of posting the key thoughts on a series of note cards. Reviewing the notes afterwards, we realized that, while targeted for Project Management Association of Finland, most of the comments are accurate and useful for our other Member Associations in the IPMA Family—including asapm, IPMA-USA.

So you now have the benefit of a second helping of the starter course for the November 2012 PMAF dinner presentation (an excellent meal, by the way). Continue reading

Indicators of PM Competence

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

I haven’t been very reliable about posting here regularly. Part of the reason is that I often get involved in LinkedIn discussions about subjects that are near and dear to my heart … like project management competence. So in lieu of copying my comments in here, please take a minute to skim this thread:

What are the true indicators of PM competence?

And don’t forget to pay particular attention to my comments!

Your Comments?

Five Foundations for the Advancement of Project Management

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

On July 4, 2011 we noted asapm’s ten-year anniversary. We reflected on our intentions, progress, and achievements in our first ten years—and then, looked ahead at the next ten years. This article focuses on our intentions; but we cannot help but mention our progress. Not only have we helped to advance the practice of project and program management (an ongoing goal), we have inspired others to follow our lead: They are now also promoting (their own interpretation of) most of our Five Foundations, and many of our innovations.

We founded asapm after having been among the key drivers of success of other professional organizations, including Project Management Institute (Institute in the rest of this article). Many of us remained members of that great organization, and still do to this day. But we felt it was time for change. And what are project managers, if not change agents?

The Need For Change
Factors in 2000-2001 contributing to the need for change were many, a handful of them became our rallying points; they were also ingredients for our business case analysis in deciding whether to found a new organization, or to continue working to improve existing ones.

  • PM advancements, innovations and their sharing had significantly slowed;
  • Intellectual Property Ownership issues discouraged involvement of the most-talented practitioners;
  • Training and learning funds appeared to be shifting from project and program performance improvement to test memorization;
  • Association governance moved from member-driven to organization-CEO controlled;
  • Emphasis shifted from all pm sectors to favor Information Technology;
  • Levels of engagement shifted from advanced interaction of long-time practitioners to mass-training of simple subjects to newcomers.

asapm Founders
asapm was founded by a group of long-time pm practitioners with a variety of backgrounds: Practicing project managers; Managers of project managers; pm consultants and trainers; educators and authors. Founders of chapters and officers of other organizations, the average pm industry experience of the founding group in 2001 was around 20 years, with some going back 35 years and more.

Most had earned the Institute’s certification (Lew Ireland wrote its first exam). And we realized that there was a lot more needed than an exam to accelerate needed organizational benefits from our discipline. Many of us worked internationally, so we had a grasp of the status of pm practice in many other nations of the World. Thus, a dedicated group set out to advance the practice of project and program management in America. Continue reading

Changing the Way Things Are …

PM Commentary by Stacy Goff.

Two weeks in Asia changes one’s perspective about many things. And when it is as eventful and enlightening as my last two weeks, it can be soaring and exhausting, at the same time. This article is about the first half of my trip, which was in a literally soaring country, Nepal.

PMAN Conference
The occasion was the Project Management Association of Nepal conference, where the IPMA Executive Board (ExBo) members held one of our meetings, and spoke at the conference. In part, we did this to support our Nepal Member Association, and to honor our IPMA Young Project Manager, Shailesh Nepal. Shailesh won this award at the 2010 IPMA World Congress, and it was a tough competition: All the three finalists were great! As an aside, the 2011 Young Project Manager award applications are due June 15. Have you submitted yours?

Each ExBo member who presented has a unique style. It is not difficult to tell us apart. I chose not to use the microphone, and Bill Young, President of AIPM, the Australia IPMA Member Association, was in the front row. As I started up with my “Stacy voice,” he was blown into the 4th row. Taking a hint, I turned down the volume a bit. No one fell asleep during my presentation.

The PMAN leadership team did a great job, pulling together this, their first major conference, in 6 months. Congratulations to Saroj, Suraj and Tika, of PMAN, Project Management Association of Nepal!

Meeting Meg
One of our asapm members, Meg, lives in Nepal with her husband; she is involved with the IPMA Awards program, and will be helping start it in Nepal and in the USA, as well as managing the production of some IPMA promotional materials for awards. It was a pleasure to meet Meg, after several months of emails, and a special pleasure to hear her speak at the conference. She did a great job of proclaiming the strengths of project management in non-technical terms. Her subject was a recent project, assisting Masters Candidates in planning, researching, reviewing and on-time completion of their Masters Theses. Meg is a treasure for Nepal! Continue reading

Performance Based Competency

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

I’ve been getting a fair number of questions recently about “performance based competencies,” and it’s been quite a while since I posted anything here, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone and post something on the topic. The following text is adapted from the GAPPS Project Manager Framework.

Competent comes from the Latin root competere which means “to be suitable.” In today’s workplace, the term “competent” is generally used to describe someone who is sufficiently skilled to perform a specified task or to fill a defined position — a competent physician, a competent salesperson, a competent plumber. Organizations are interested in assessing the competency of individuals in order to guide employment and development decisions.

Broadly speaking, there are two major approaches to defining and assessing competency:

  • Attribute based wherein personal attributes such as knowledge, skills, and other characteristics are identified and assessed. Competence is inferred based on the presence of the necessary attributes.
  • Performance based wherein work outcomes and performance levels are identified and assessed. Competence is inferred based on the demonstrated ability to satisfy the performance criteria.

At asapm, we use the latter approach. Performance based competency assessment was invented by the US Army, and today, it is widely used throughout the world. For example, government endorsed standards and qualifications frameworks in Australia (Department of Education, Science and Training), New Zealand (New Zealand Qualifications Authority), South Africa (South African Qualifications Authority), and the United Kingdom (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) are all focused primarily on performance based competency assessment.

Our performance based competency assessment looks at the following two questions:

  • What is usually done in this occupation, profession, or role by competent performers?
  • What standard of performance is usually considered acceptable to infer competence?

We answer these questions by defining:

  • Units of Competency

A Unit of Competency defines a broad area of professional or occupational performance that is meaningful to practitioners and which is demonstrated by individuals in the workplace.

  • Elements of Competency

Elements of Competency describe the key components of work performance within a Unit. They describe what is done by individuals in the workplace but do not prescribe how the work is done. For example, project managers must “define risks and risk responses for the project,” but they can do it themselves or delegate the work to others. In addition, there are many different tools and techniques that they could use.

  • Performance Criteria

Performance Criteria describe observable results and actions in the workplace from which competent performance can be inferred. Performance Criteria can be satisfied in many different ways; there are no mandatory approaches, tools, or methodologies.

  • Explanatory Statements

Explanatory Statements help to ensure consistent interpretation of the Elements and the Performance Criteria by expanding on critical or significant aspects of them to enable consistent application in different contexts.

This approach is both consistent with and compatible with generally accepted practice within the field of competency development and assessment.

The Units, Elements, and Performance Criteria are not linear or sequential: there is no requirement that the work be done in any particular sequence or that the Performance Criteria be satisfied in any particular order. In addition, some Performance Criteria can be satisfied with relatively little effort while others will require a substantial commitment from the project manager over the full length of the project.

Our Performance Criteria address threshold performance — demonstration of the ability to do something at a standard considered acceptable in the workplace. They do not measure superior performance — what the best project managers do. Superior performers should, however, be able to satisfy the threshold criteria without difficulty.

We assess against the minimum number of Performance Criteria needed to infer competence. As a result, a candidate must satisfy all of the Performance Criteria in the applicable Units in order to be viewed as competent. In addition, the Performance Criteria represent different levels of detail. The number of Performance Criteria in a Unit or Element is not proportional to the amount of time or effort that a project manager must spend in that area to be viewed as competent.

Your Comments?

More on Project Success

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

A slightly edited version of a recent LinkedIn post … this all started with a question that asked, “is scope, cost, and schedule enough to determine ‘project success.'” I responded with my usual position that “project success” is not an absolute, and that there were two dimensions to project success: project management success and product success. A couple of others continued to suggest using “project success” as the term for what I call “project management success.”

My most recent comment follows ..’

We’re close … my problem with “project success” is that the users/ owners/ clients/ customers/ sponsors for most projects could care less about how well managed the project was. They want their “thing” so that they can start using it to benefit the business. If we talk about “project success,” they are not going to understand us because the “project” to them is the “thing.”

In your shed examples [one built by hand and another built by a subcontractor], I disagree that different criteria are needed to measure project management success. For example, in both cases, we must select at least one measure of schedule success. There are many options:
— Delivery no later than the initial agreed date.
— Delivery within one week of the initial agreed date.
— Delivery at least one day before the delivery of the stuff going into the shed.
— Delivery no later than the final agreed date as adjusted due to scope changes.

One of these (or some other variant) would be agreed at the start. Once the criteria are agreed, it’s up to me as the PM to decide whether I should build the shed myself or contract it out.

Based on the success criteria, if you are a competent project manager, you may decide to include a contingency for a subcontractor’s heart attack. But if I’m the sponsor, I am not going to assess every decision you make: I am going to evaluate the results. Can you meet the schedule success criteria without being a good PM? Yes. Can you meet all of the PM success criteria without being a good PM? Unlikely without a co-dependent sponsor.

If you decide to manufacture the shed in bulk … that is a completely different endeavor with no relationship to the first one. The development of the product road map, design variants, and the rest is a project. The implementation of those plans is, indeed, product management and (as I have said from the beginning) has different success criteria. The product planning could have been part of the initial scope (with the first shed being a prototype), and we would still need separate sets of criteria for assessing the project management results and the product results.

But even without the bulk manufacturing … there are product/ benefit/ outcome criteria for the initial shed. The specs neglected to specify which model tractor, so the designer made an assumption, and the client signed off. Now the tractor is delivered, and it doesn’t fit. The shed is not fit for use (the “product” is a partial failure) despite the fact that it was well-managed.

One final repeat: the Project Manager is NOT responsible for delivering the product results. Just for being aware of what they are and doing their best to make sure that the project management success criteria support them.

Your Comments?

Art or Science?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.
Once again, from a LinkedIn discussion … someone posted a question. “Is project management an art or a science?” There were nearly 30 comments, most of which argued “both,” and most of which leapt right into the discussion without bothering to define their terms. So here is my post:

As is my wont, I checked the dictionary …
There are two definitions of science: the study of the natural world, and an organized body of knowledge. Project management does NOT meet the first definition; it does satisfy the second. So we can say PM is a science, but not according to the most common definition.
As well, there are two definitions of art: producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power, and skill at doing something. Project management does not meet either definition, although GOOD project management would satisfy the second. So again, we can say that PM is an art, but not according to the most common definition.
More to the point … what difference would knowing the answer make to you when managing a project? I suspect the answer is “none.”
On the other hand (and my biases are showing here) … would you rather hire a project manager who has proven their knowledge of the science of project management, or one who has demonstrated their grasp of the art? Would you rather hire a project manager who has passed a multiple choice exam? Or one whose performance has actually been assessed against a set of defined criteria?

Your Comments?

Ten “New” Rules

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

Hal Macomber writes a lot of good stuff about soft skills in project management. Here’s a link to one of his posts that I like. Stop by and tell him I said, “hi.”


Why did I put “new” in quotes? Because there really isn’t much that’s new in Hal’s list. These are all things that I was taught to do way back in the 1980s and 1990s. So why have so many project managers lost their way?

I think one of the key contributors is our community’s credentialing practices: so many people are cramming for exams rather than learning how to manage a project. And so many corporations are rewarding the successful test-takers with positions of responsibility that they simply aren’t prepared to handle.

That’s just another reason why I like our performance-based assessment process. If you want asapm to grant you an advanced certification, you better be able to provide evidence that you’ve actually managed a project and managed it successfully.

Your Comments?

GAPPS Program Manager Standard

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

GAPPS is the Global Alliance for Project Performance Standards. asapm is a founding member of GAPPS, and we continue to be active in supporting their standards development efforts. We also use their standards as part of our implementation of IPMA’s Four-Level-Certification (4-L-C) Program.

GAPPS has recently released an Exposure Draft of a performance-based competency standard (PBCS) for program managers. You can download it here:


Comments are due by October 11.

Your Comments?

Are activities part of the WBS?

PM Certification commentary by William Duncan, asapm Certification Chair.

I got an email earlier today from an asapm member who wanted an answer to the title questions above. I told him “yes,” and he then quoted my words from the 1996 version of A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge back to me:

“The activity list must include all activities which will be performed on the project. It should be organized as an extension to the WBS to help ensure that it is complete and that it does not include any activities which are not required as part of the project scope.” (emphasis added)

To me, this argument is a total waste of time. This is project management’s version of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” If I take the lowest level of the WBS, and break it up into 4 activities, why not just include those 4 activities as part of the WBS? Why maintain two lists? Where is the added value?

Why did I change my position? Actually, I didn’t. The words in the 1996 document represented political expediency. During reviews of various drafts, there were a bunch of people who either (a) confused the CWBS with the WBS, or (b) worked in construction where the prime doesn’t develop a complete WBS. Both groups insisted that activities should not be part of the WBS as they understood it. I accommodated them.

So while the activities may be separated from the WBS on some projects or in some application areas, the split is artificial. You can take the drawers out of your dresser and say that the drawers aren’t part of the dresser. But why?

Some may argue that the WBS contains deliverables which are nouns, while activities have a noun and a verb. True enough, but keep in mind that any deliverable can be described as an activity, and any activity can be converted into a deliverable by dropping the verb.

When we certify at asapm, we are concerned with whether or not a project manager produces results. Whether you include activities in the WBS or not may be interest to people who are writing trick questions for knowledge-based exams, but we’ll stick to evaluating performance.

Your Comments?